Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland, in Sioux City, is launching the "Lunch Buddies" program, which will pair Clark students with volunteer adult mentors.
Jill Colling is president/CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland. When the program was announced, Colling said a goal was to see 20 matches made in the school.
"I believe that it is an excellent opportunity for some of our students at Clark to be positively influenced by a one-to-one relationship with an adult role model," said Principal Floyd Athay.
Wednesday was the first "Lunch Buddies" day for three students.
"Lunch Buddies" volunteers Lindsey Flewelling, Lauren Wallace and Sharon Cargin shared lunch time getting acquainted with their student.
Flewelling and Wallace both heard about the program through communications at their workplace, Wells Enterprises.
"I thought it would be fun to do," said Flewelling, who is paired up with second grader Levi Kounkel.
The two shared their lunch in a room away from the lunchroom.
"We ate and talked," she said. "I found out he likes pets and has lots of pets."
Flewelling brought her sack lunch while Levi ate the school lunch.
"Actually, the school lunch looked pretty good," she said. "I want to eat here when they serve chili."
Flewelling said she sees the program as helping a student gain confidence in themselves.
"I want to be his friend and just have fun, too," she added.
Cargin went through the lunch line with her buddy, third grader Uriah Groetken.
The two made their way back to Uriah's classroom, where they were able chat.
After eating, it was off to recess, where Cargin was challenged to go down the slide.
"I think I passed the test," Cargin said with a smile.
Cargin read about the program in a newspaper article and wanted to give it a try.
"I think it's nice to build a one-on-one relationship with a child," she said.
Cargin is also involved in other activities in the school, so she is a familiar face to a number of students.
"I hope to be a good role model and be a consistent person in his life," Cargin said.
With her own children now adults, Cargin said it gives her a chance to "be a mother again."
She sees herself as one who may help her buddy with school things and listen when he might have a problem to talk about.
Wallace and her student, Cameron Peterson, a fourth grader, took their lunch in the counselor's office, where they spent time getting acquainted and learned about each other's favorite things.
"I hope to be a good role model and influence for her," Wallace said. "I want her to see that she has someone she can talk to."
Wallace said she saw the program as a way to get involved and give back to her community
"I enjoy children and see this program as directly benefiting a child and being rewarding for me," Wallace said.
Athay said the teachers believe that the program has great potential in helping the students at Clark both in and out of the classroom.
Clark third grade teacher Vicki Oetken, said the Big Brothers Big Sisters is a great program and she's glad it's come to Clark school.
The kids just want someone to listen to them, she said.
"As teachers, we do the best we can to meet their needs, but it's hard to give them that time every day," Oetken said.
She especially appreciates the one-on-one time the Big Brothers Big Sisters provides.
The "Lunch Buddies" program means an adult mentor will meet with his or her student one-half hour a week at school during the student's lunch period.
Athay sees the benefits to Clark students as being far-reaching.
"Hopefully it will help our students not only by doing better in school, both academically and socially, but have a positive impact on the students home life as well," Athay said.
He also hopes the influence of Big Brothers Big Sisters will carry on throughout the students school career.
According to Colling, the Clark Elementary School "Lunch Buddies" program is partially supprted with a Le Mars United Way grant and through the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Right now, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Le Mars is a school-based program.
The goal is to extend it to a community-based program where participants could meet together for longer outings ouside of school, according to Magnussen.
If it expands to a community-based program, there will be a need for more Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Last Saturday's "Tailgate with a Chef" at Hy-Vee in Le Mars was a fundraiser for the "Lunch Buddies" program and a way for more people to find out about the project.